Mary Magdalen Day

Today is the feast day of Mary Magdalen, also called Mary of Magdala. The Maeve Chronicles by Elizabeth Cunningham is a series of award-winning novels featuring a feisty Celtic Magdalen, who is no one’s disciple. I have read and recommend these novels, and anything by Elizabeth Cunningham. Each volume can stand alone and the books can be read in any order. For those who like to read chronologically: Magdalen Rising; The Passion of Mary Magdalen; Bright Dark Madonna; Red-Robed Priestess. 

Read Cunningham’s latest writing on Mary Magdalen, a guest post appearing today on the blog, titled Did You Have to Make Her a ProstituteAnd if you want to hear Cunningham’s voice singing the musical essence of the Maeve Chronicles, you can listen to samples of her blues, bluegrass, gospel, and jazz improvisation here.

As Magdalas of the planet, let us rise and reclaim our magnificent, self-defined, female selves! Thank you, Elizabeth Cunningham.



My Darling Life

Art by Susa Silvermarie

I take my life as my Love,
in youth and in old age,
‘til death do us part.
My darling life, thank you.
For still being here.
Today I throw open my arms
to my life, my life!



Yesterday when I created this watercolor of a Resplendant Quetzal and  a Mot-Mot, two cloud forest denizens I adore, I was filled with gratitude for my time on our stunning planet home.

photography by Susa Silvemarie
Solstice Sunset Lake Chapala
photography by Susa Silvermarie
Our Dear Star photo by Susa




The Voice of Neill James

Neill James has been dead since 1994 but her voice lay waiting for me in her books. When I opened one and began to read, her voice rose right up out of the pages! And these are musty old books, the two of her five I have been able to find, Dust On My Heart: Petticoat Vagabond in Mexico and Petticoat Vagabond: In Ainu Land published in 1946 and 1942, respectively. After her travels, Neill James settled here on the shore of Lake Chapala, where I now make my home. Her own home, donated to the Lake Chapala Society, is a place I frequent, wandering in the gardens, attending lectures and teaching workshops, drinking coffee.
I have never before experienced hearing an author the way I hear this dead woman, Neill James, speak in my ear. Perhaps it’s her writing style, the way she inserts her opinions so judiciously and deliciously in the travelogues. Perhaps it’s her audacious nature, coming through the veil of what she chooses to tell and not tell, where she chooses to go, how she chooses to interact with the people who live in the lands she drinks in, like the thirsty vagabond she names herself to be.

Whatever it is, I long to have crossed time and been her friend. I cheer with her when she circumvents an obstacle, I laugh with her when they tell her over and over what she can’t do—before she goes right ahead and does it. I admire her impartial tone when she describes the dangers and the very physical hardships that sometimes resulted from her facing them. Here is the succinct fashion in which Neill summarizes the two separate volcanic accidents that brought her to settle here in Mexico: “I fell on Popocateptl, and Parícutin fell on me.”

Neill James lived her life exactly the way she wished to live it, in a world that had no conceptual box for a solo and intrepid traveler who happened to be female. I respect her self-respect, that of a woman born at the end of the 19th century when the 14th Amendment of the Constitution defined “citizens” and “voters” as “male”.

But that voice! How did she secrete it into the fusty pages now sitting on the shelves for seventy-five years? She was published by Scribner’s, who at the time was also publishing Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. It is my fervent hope that her works be re-issued so that others can experience the living energy of her words.

Neill James major works:
Dust On My Heart: Petticoat Vagabond in Mexico (1946)
Petticoat Vagabond: In Ainu Land, Up and Down Eastern Asia (1942)
Petticoat Vagabond: Up and Down The World in Asia (1942)
White Reindeer (1940)
Petticoat Vagabond among the Nomads (1939)

And here are descriptions of some of the fascinating photographs you can see in the Lake Chapala Society Neil James Memorial Photo Collection:

1943 Mexico
Neill James inside the crater of Popocatepetl, elevation 17,894 feet.

1940 Asia       Neill James in an Ainu village with a bear cub being raised for sacrifice at the Sacred Bear Ceremony.

1940 Asia   Neill James with Ainu Chief and Chieftess of Siraoi, standing before the grass house in which she lived.

1938 Finland     Ms. James traveled 2,000 miles driving a reindeer riding in this one-runner sled called a pulkka.

1938 Finland, Neill James in Imari Lapp costume which she wore while living with the Lapps.














Wake-Up Call


I. I am a snake in molt, rubbing my length between two Birch. Like scratchy sandpaper, the old skin itches. Snakes don’t reveal their feelings, but they say that molting makes a grumpy bird; bad feather days, behaviors­­­ appearing to those who study them, as irritable, aggressive, miserable. Snakes may not like it either.

Humans slough our skin continuously, five hundred million flakes a day; much less visibly, yet like snake, shedding every inch. The serpent knows she’s chucking her entire coat between the trees. We humans grow our skin anew so very incrementally, it is a process never noticed.

I rasp, but my pinched skin chafes along the trunk for hours. I am a live file grinding against confinement. I forget that the magic of molting is replacement, and making room to grow again.

When I finally leave behind skin, and fears, and all the past attachments of the decades, nothing sticks, on skin slippery as a new-hatched babe’s. My smooth and brilliant scales slide easy over obstacles and leisurely repel, with cool unconcern, all the old worries. I wriggle and shine for the thrill, my new skin tingling me awake! I remember that the magic of molting is replacement. And making room, room— room to grow huge.

II. I thought molting bumpy, but ha! The wake-up call today, instead of stopping at the surface, pierces our flaking shells to the core of chromosomes and DNA.The caterpillar human, fat with ravenous consumption, in our very lifetimes dissolves itself to juices. Our imaginal cells shift us to a fresh vibration. We resurrect as who-knows-what.

The wake-up call of Mama Gaia hollers for humans to shed everything we think we are. She howls for us to discover — divinity, our largest Self, the one who cannot countenance killing or contamination, or anything except one steely will for harmony in all creation.

The invitation to awaken comes to me-in-the-body from my own Galactic Sea. The wake-up calls and calls, like a singing bowl that began resounding the day that I was born, like a summoning flame from an insistent lighthouse in the stars. Now past seventy I stir, I rouse, I open all my eyes.

On my street, Maria sits on the curb, solitary every day, head bent low, studying the cracks, she says. But when she lifts her eyes to me, the Tibetan bell, the flame, are struck anew. I stir, I rouse, I waken. But oh, the wake-up feels like bad feather days, grumpy birds, untried feather stubs; like serpent scales of coarsest sandpaper; like an insect carapace, half-shed, half-clinging. Dangerous. Unfamiliar.

Cops drove the drifters off the beach today, those who’d made their homes with castoffs, men who daily raked the shore in service, whose leader, like a bro, looked out for me. There’s no preparing for the wake-up.. A slow detection of sameness, a bud barely seeming to change, blossoms one single night. Transforms. My heart flings its window open to Maria and Pascual, to every other being. The insufficiency of No grows crystal clear. I come clean with my fears. My Yes names strangers: allies, kin. Though I miss the skin that I stepped out of, my naked newness strange and clumsy, I hear the clarion call:

Hello, hello. Incoming!
Downloading OneSelf to delicate human—
Heads up, take heed, lavish your attention!
I’m the wake-up call that dares you
to extend the threshold of your knowing
to unroll your carpet of awareness,
and stretch for the download of all-you-are..
Reach! Unfold! Expand!

I stir, I rouse, I waken.
©Susa Silvermarie 2018